PUTTING THE RIGHTS AND VOICES OF AFFECTED COMMUNITIES FRONT AND CENTRE
At its core, the response to AIDS is and has always been more than a fight against a disease – it is a fight for human rights. Violence, discrimination, stigmatization and persecution continue to mark the daily lives of many of the world’s most vulnerable people, increasing their risk of HIV acquisition and obstructing their access to essential health services. In some places, laws still criminalize HIV transmission, exposure and non-disclosure and being part of a key population.
And health facilities, rather than acting as sanctuaries of care, are often where stigma and discrimination is most frequently experienced.
With fewer than half of all people in need of treatment receiving ART, the right to health itself continues to be aspirational for most people living with HIV. The IAS believes that it is not enough to simply advocate for a human rights-based AIDS response. The protection and safe-guarding of human rights must be incorporated into every aspect of that response – from research to implementation, from policy to programming.
PRIORITIZING GENDER TRANSFORMATION AND INCLUSIVITY IN EVERY ASPECT OF THE RESPONSE
The role of gender in defining the course of the AIDS epidemic and the world’s response to it is widely acknowledged, but insufficiently addressed in many aspects of research, policy and programme design and implementation. Women and girls continue to bear a disproportionate share of the HIV burden in some of the most highly affected regions, and transgender women are among those at risk of HIV exposure. Despite this, trans and intersex people continue to be largely excluded from most HIV research and programming. Lack of gender-transformative programming, high rates of intimate partner and gender-based violence, discriminatory laws and limited opportunities for women, as well as narrow conceptualizations of gender, gender norms and sexuality, have all contributed to the making of an epidemic that cannot be successfully fought without placing gender at the centre of our efforts.
The IAS is committed to integrating gender across its programmes and initiatives by ensuring that a “gender lens” is incorporated into our work. This includes advancing a response that fully accounts for gender priority interventions that are inclusive of individuals across the full gender spectrum, including men and boys whose engagement is key to challenging entrenched gender norms and inequities that fuel the epidemic.
AMPLIFYING YOUTH VOICES AND EMPOWERING YOUTH LEADERS
Recent progress in expanding access to ART for adults and significantly reducing the number of children born with HIV has obscured stagnation in the response for children and adolescents –adolescents are the only age group for whom AIDS-related deaths are increasing. Falling through the cracks between paediatric and adult services, young people most contend with a lack of services tailored to their specific needs. The impact of the epidemic is felt particularly acutely by young key populations and young women. Of all new HIV infections among adolescents in Asia, an estimated 95% occur among men who have sex with men, sex workers, and people who inject drug. In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls account for 75% of new HIV infections among adolescents.
The voices of youth are frequently stifled, and young people are not as meaningfully involved as they should be in the policy discussions that directly affect them. To improve the AIDS response for youth, their voices must be heard and listened to every step of the way – from research, to policy, to programme implementation. The IAS is driving a number of efforts to support the participation and engagement of a diverse range of young people in all aspects of the AIDS response.